Archive for November, 2011


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Wednesday, November 30th, 2011 | Uncategorized | 25 Comments

In one of the most embarrassing efforts by an alleged Christian theologian that I’ve ever seen, Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, senior fellow at the leftist Center for American Progress, thinks that US student loan debt should be wiped off the books.  Why?  Because Jesus would have wanted it that way:

We need to start taking student loan debt seriously, both as a troubling moral issue and as a ticking economic time bomb. By some reports, student loan debt in the U.S. will exceed 1 trillion dollars this year, more than the credit card debt of all Americans.

A whole generation of young Americans is at risk in this excessive borrowing. They fall further and further behind in “servicing their debt” because they have no way to keep up with the payments as many of them are unemployed or underemployed. They will delay starting marriage and families; they dare not take the risk of quitting a paying job (if they have one!) and starting their own business to create jobs, and they certainly cannot save to buy a home. They are trapped.

Jesus teaches his disciples to pray, “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12) Forgiving debt is a moral issue. Forgiving some of the worst of this student debt is crucial literally to save this American generation.

Sue?  By any chance, have you read as far as Matthew 6:14-15?  If you have, how in the world can you seriously suggest that going into hock for a semiotics degree is the sort of “debt” to which Our Lord referred? 

As for debt forgiveness being “crucial literally to save this American generation,” I’ll have to take your word for that since it seems that no one in American history has ever owed a college a large sum of money before.  But Susie’s not letting go of that bone.

The kind of moral equality that Jesus asks us to pray for in the Lord’s Prayer can be seen in Applebaum’s argument. Jesus calls on us to pray, “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” Forgive and be forgiven. Americans are tied together in this student debt debacle, and debt forgiveness will help the forgivers as well as those forgiven.

Here’s a question.  What is the moral difference between student loan debt and any other kind of debt?  Why is forgiving one kind of debt crucial to our national survival while forgiving another kind is not?  Why should college students be singled out?

If your mortgage, your credit card debt or your car payment vanished tomorrow, your financial situation would considerably improve, you could buy more stuff and the economy would pick up.  So, since Christian forgiveness is literally to be unlimited, shouldn’t Brooksie want all debts to be forgiven?  Apparently not; even God Incarnate has His limits and some debts are more important than others.

Currently, I’m advocating debt forgiveness. It is the moral thing to do and it is the right civic thing to do. This is what Jesus actually meant; real debts, real debtors, forgiving and forgiven. This is what government is actually about—of the people, by the people, for the people. We still have a chance to show young people that democracy can work for the common good.

By “people,” of course, Brooksie means people with Masters degrees in Bulgarian Literature Studies and Obama stickers on the Priuses their parents bought them for graduation.  Anyway, it’s all for the KidsTM so kiss off, Slappy!


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Wednesday, November 30th, 2011 | Uncategorized | 39 Comments

Watching LibCats go bat crap over the new translation of the Catholic Mass is starting to get really funny.  Someone named Michele Somerville figured out why the Vatican brought the thing out.  Turns out that a lot of you mackeral snappers are dumber than a bag of…well…mackerals:

I happen to find the the Latin mass beautiful, and at first I seemed to object less to the new changes than most Catholics I know. I attend Spanish language mass in from time to time. In that liturgy, we already use phrasing similar to that the New Old Missal introduces. The Vatican is not nearly so interested, however, in the accuracy of the translation of the mass as it is in dragging today’s vernacular mass back in time. They want the 1962 mass with all the trimmings. This new translation business is a tasty treat for the lockstep sheep and papist throwbacks.

That would be those of you who think that turning the Roman Catholic Church Episcopalian would be a bad idea.

Though I seem to be alone in it, I don’t mind having to use (the new) “consubstantial” in the Nicene Creed. “Consubstantial” — it’s so, so Latin, I almost like it. There is, however, good reason not to like this kind of change. Daunting Latinate terms like “consubstantial” are tools in the grift. When the boys in the Vatican want our money, they remind us that all are welcome — no theology knowledge needed. But when people in the pews challenge man-made doctrine, the men in miters are all too quick to remind us that our lack of advanced degrees from the Pontifical Gregorian University might leave us less than qualified to challenge the Holy See on any Catholic matter.

Did Michele happen to mention how stupid you people are?

The average Catholic is too busy living a life to familiarize him or herself with the specifics of each papal encyclical, each tenet of dogma and the many voluminous, seminal Roman Catholic theological texts — and the Magisterium likes it that way. Ecclesiastical jargon makes the bishops look like they have the inside line on God. Hence the current pope’s fervor for evangelization in the developing world: Hungry, illiterate people make good converts.

Everybody knows that the Vatican’s only trying to divert attention away from its countless crimes against humanity.

The New Old Missal matter works well as a diversionary tactic. Its well-timed fanfare shifts attention away from a pontificate mired in perversion. It is easier to sit at the long table in a gown parsing the Filioque than it is to sit at that same table and discuss the ordination of women, the Vatican’s culpability in spreading HIV and AIDS in the developing world, and its own spiritual cancer in the form of bishop-facilitated child rape.

Even more shocking is the fact that for some reason, Pope Benedict XVI suddenly seems to have gone all Calvinist.

In this prayer “cup” has become “chalice.” While “chalice” may more accurately render a strict construction translation of the Latin, it is hard to imagine that “chalice” best describes the vessel Jesus might have called some version of His “Kiddush cup.” Somehow, imperial “chalice” seems benign when seen alongside the following godawful change: “It will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

If the language is to be believed, last Sunday the blood of Christ saved everyone. This week, not so much.

For the last half-century, the Roman Catholic Church has been universalist?  Guess so.

Thus the English-speaking United States is reminded that the universal, transcendent, Catholic savior now pours out his blood for some and not others. This stipulation may appear in the original Latin, but even if it’s a technically accurate translation of the original phrase, it’s inconsistent with what Catholics have been expressing in our Creed for 50 years. Now, we are asked to pray to the Christ who saves many of us and not all of us. The focus of the prayer shifts onto the excluded. Who are they? Atheists, agnostics, non-Catholic believers and — the real targets — Roman Catholic self-excommunicants.

And don’t forget the most horrible and horrifying part of any Christian worship service, something that should NEVER be uttered in polite, Christian company.  Male pronouns.

I attended a meeting about a year ago in which these changes in the liturgy were introduced. At one point in the discussion, a friend seated behind me tapped my shoulder. “Psst,” he said, pointing to the new translation of the Nicene Creed, “looks like they missed something.” He pointed to this:

 “For us men / and our salvation…”

No woman ever went to heaven until liturgical language became “inclusive?”  Apparently.

The Vatican’s choice to revisit the text of the Nicene Creed with the aim of perfecting the English translation from Latin is understandable. When it comes to translating our unified profession of faith (which, in going from “we believe” back to “I believe,” would seem to make the prayer less unified.) precision should matter. What is less easy to understand is why the painstaking revision did not include a second look at “for us men / and our salvation.” Every Magisterium-sanctioned text we have tells us that women are included in salvation, yet the translators of the “New” (old) Missal thought it unnecessary to pause, in the course their painstaking parsing, to notice what is essentially erroneous about “for us men and our salvation.”

Assuming one accepts the doctrine, it’s difficult to figure out exactly where the Mother of Our Lord was assumed to.  Shreveport?

This non-oversight says all one needs to know about the spirit of this translation. One should expect nothing better from this pontificate. Why did they not correct this inaccurate language when the Vatican experts were in there fixing everything else? Why does the Credo retain this inaccurate and misogynist language?

Shelly, of course, answers her own question.

You know why. The He-man Woman Haters are sending a message. Swinging their censers. This show of power is Ratzinger’s billet doux to lockstep Catholics. He’s tossing the sheep a bone. Even the smallest evidence of devolution thrills them. So, why did they boys in lace change the words to the mass?

What should be done?  Shelly has a cunning plan.

What if all the women in the church were to redirect their Advent weekly collection dollars to purchasing gifts for the needy, provisions for food pantries, charitable organizations or Catholic groups which challenge the tyranny of the Ratzinger pontificate? It would be interesting to see what would happen if every Catholic whom the New Old Missal now freshly excludes from salvation, were to boycott the collection basket for the duration of the season of Advent.

Or you could go the honesty route and become Episcopalians.  Inclusive language out the wazoo, Katherine Jefferts Schori runs the thing and you can sit pretty much anywhere in the church that you want to these days.  What’s not to like?


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Tuesday, November 29th, 2011 | Uncategorized | 20 Comments

A douchebag named Kevin Boyle teaches history at The Ohio State University.  This book review of his demonstrates why higher education has such a bad reputation these days.

Imagine a political movement created in a moment of terrible anxiety, its origins shrouded in a peculiar combination of manipulation and grass-roots mobilization, its ranks dominated by Christian conservatives and self-proclaimed patriots, its agenda driven by its members’ fervent embrace of nationalism, nativism and moral regeneration, with more than a whiff of racism wafting through it.

No, not that movement. The one from the 1920s, with the sheets and the flaming crosses and the ludicrous name meant to evoke a heroic past. The Invisible Empire of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, they called it. And for a few years it burned across the nation, a fearsome thing to ­behold.


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Tuesday, November 29th, 2011 | Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Dr. Richard Land has some excellent advice for Newt Gingrich:

The good news is, as you know Evangelicals are a forgiving people, who having experienced redemption and forgiveness in their own spiritual lives, are most often willing to extend it to others who ask for it. Consequently, a high percentage of Evangelical men are willing to cut you some slack over your turbulent marital history. The bad news is that Evangelical women are far less willing to forgive and let bygones be bygones. There is a large and significant  gap on the issue of your two previous marriages. My research would indicate a majority of men, but less than a third of Evangelical women are currently willing to trust you as their president.

Mr. Speaker, if you want to get large numbers of Evangelicals, particularly women, to vote for you, you must address the issue of your marital past in a way that allays the fears of Evangelical women.

You need to make it as clear as you possibly can that you deeply regret your past actions and that you do understand the anguish and suffering they caused others including your former spouses. Make it as clear as you can that you have apologized for the hurt your actions caused and that you have learned from your past misdeeds. Express your love for, and loyalty to, your wife and your commitment to your marriage. Promise your fellow Americans that if they are generous enough to trust you with the presidency, you will not let them down and that there will be no moral scandals in a Gingrich White House.


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Tuesday, November 29th, 2011 | Uncategorized | 47 Comments

You Catholics may or may not know this but a new English translation of the Catholic Mass debuts this weekend.  And LibCats like ex-priest John Pinette are having hissy fits about it:

This weekend, English-speaking Catholics around the world will walk into their churches to find an act of Vatican vandalism, as a new English translation of the Mass is foisted upon them. This new translation is a throwback to 19th century English that would make the Brontë sisters feel right at home. (I should, in fairness to the Brontës, point out their prose is eminently more readable than the Mass translation in question). For forty years, Catholics have been using a translation that, while not perfect, was often lyrical and poetic. And, after two generations of use, familiar.

Forty years?  So it’s not like Rome found the current version on scrolls from the Dead Sea or anything.  The last semi-decent Episcopal prayer book lasted sixty years before it was turned into the meaningless sludge that it is now.  That was vandalism, Johnny boy. 

And I have to tell you that a lot of us Anglicans wouldn’t mind the odd “thee,” “thou” or “vouchsafe” in the liturgy now and then.  Me, I always thought that the Creator of the universe deserved His own set of pronouns.

The new translation is none of the above, driven by the desire to get as close to the Latin as possible. It goes out of its way to remind people of the majesty of God, which is a good thing. And that they are sinful. (I suppose the Mass texts should emphasize it, since Jesus seemed to spend so little time doing so).

Quite true.  Well, except for here.  And here.  And here.  And here.  And here.  Don’t forget here.  Or here.  Or here.  Or here.  Or here.  Of course everybody remembers here.  And here.  And here.  And here

Apart from those few times, Jesus barely mentioned sin at all.  Then there was that whole dying on the Cross and rising to life again thing but I guess that was just a really cool magic trick or something.

But why in the world would Rome want to rewrite the tablets received by Moses on Mount Sinai introduce a new translation of the Mass?  Simple.  REACTIONARIES!!

How we got to this point is a classic tale of palace intrigue and conservative grassroots organizing. The same social forces that have the Tea Party curating congressional debates about the motto “In God We Trust” when millions are jobless has Rome inflicting this new translation to correct doctrinal drift that, as far as I can see, isn’t much of a problem.

Watch John get all pseudo-intellectual to remind you that he’s smart and you’re not.

Catholics who worry about the growing spread among them of the 4th century heresy of Arianism will be consoled to see that instead of saying that Jesus is “one in being with the Father,” we will now be enunciating the incomprehensible “consubstantial with the Father.” (This also strikes a blow to the errant followers of Apollinarianism, in case that’s on the rise, too.) It all feels like a solution in search of a problem. Happily, the Catholic Church has no other problems to deal with.

Why are you really pissed about this translation, John?

I think the Tea Party analogy is instructive, because it’s this same discomfort with modernity and pluralism that motivated the changes from Rome. English-speaking Catholics were among the most progressive in the worldwide Church. And this new translation is a jerk to the choke-collar by Vatican officials. It’s part of their larger effort towards a “Catholic Restoration” of more traditional values and ways. The new translation should feel right at home to those who pine for former times (at least if you pine for the 19th century). For example, Catholics with even a hint of feminist sensitivities will be appalled to see the new translation never misses an opportunity to use the term “men” to describe human beings.

And there you have it.  Pinette is absolutely terrified that if Catholic traditionalism is permitted to strengthen and reassert itself, the one project that drives and motivates western Christian leftists everywhere, the Episcopalianization of the American Roman Catholic Church, will be set back decades, if not centuries.

So why don’t people like Pinette flee to the Episcopalians?  What’s the point of controlling a church that no one attends and that no one pays any attention to?  Marginalize Catholic traditionalism and you have at least some chance of getting more and more theologically squishy bishops into positions of church leadership since they will be the only options you have. 

It will probably take you many, many decades but you at least have a chance of establishing an American Catholic church that is functionally indistinguishable from the Episcopalians.  And once you have that, you can begin to influence other Catholic churches in other places in ways you’d prefer them to go.

But if Catholic conservatism is institutionally strengthened, you will have little or no chance of achieving any of that because your ideas will have to compete against a set of theological principles with a long and storied intellectual pedigree behind them.  And as a Catholic cathedral flying buttress, I don’t like your chances.

Back to John.  He knows just who to blame for this situation.  That Polish idiot.

This couldn’t have happened without a generation of bishops appointed by John Paul II, many of whom have willingly signed on to push back as much toothpaste into the tube as possible.

Dude was practically a Baptist.

Of course, the forces of the restoration are firmly in control of the Catholic Church’s apparatus at this point. You would think they would be doing a Snoopy-dance, since by any measure, getting this new Mass thrust upon hundreds of millions of English-speaking Catholics is a true accomplishment. But they seem as pinched and neuralgic as ever. Joy seems in short supply with so much doctrinal error at every turn.

Don’t know where John’s getting that.

Will this make more Catholics love the Mass? I doubt it. It will make more conservative Catholics happy. And that seems to be a decided inclination in the present administration’s ease at stepping around the Second Vatican Council’s teachings to appease those far right of center.

Again, I’m outside looking in but I don’t understand why the Vatican would want to appease people who don’t believe the Catholic religion.  Makes no sense to me at all.  John finishes really strong.

Even at a time of such diminished credibility for the Catholic Church, most of the faithful will simply put up with the changes. More’s the pity. Nevertheless, this new translation of the Mass is obtuse, inelegant and, ultimately, unnecessary.

You know what?  Some arrogance and stupidity can actually be beautiful.


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Tuesday, November 29th, 2011 | Uncategorized | 14 Comments

Citing statistics which would seem to indicate that Americans are getting less religious, Mandy Marcotte can’t wait for the inevitable leftist golden age.

Of course, that it’s predictable doesn’t make it right. That Americans are becoming more fond of the separation of church and state is a good thing. After all, our Founding Fathers set out to create a society that had such a separation, and they believed, rightly, that religion and politics shouldn’t mix. (“In God We Trust” was only added to our currency during the Civil War era.) That desire has never fully played out in American politics, and there’s every reason to believe it won’t truly play out in our lifetimes. But at current rates of growing interest in the separation of church and state, the religious right will have an increasingly hard time being viewed as more than a vocal minority by the rest of the country.

We should welcome such a change. The more that religion can be pushed off into the realm of private practice and out of the public square, the better for public discourse, as we can dispense with the God talk and move on to reality-based discussions about what we want and how we can get it. The Millennials have the right idea when it comes to dismissing the belief that religion somehow improves politics. Now we just have to wait for the religious right to finish with their temper tantrum over this, and then we can move on to the future.

As anyone who reads the First Amendment knows, the Founders believed no such thing.  Knowing that all faiths have value, they merely wanted to forbid the establishment of an official state Church.  Jefferson’s “wall of separation” dictum, which is not a Constitutional principle no matter how much airheads like Mandy might wish it to be so, came later.

Besides, the Founders knew that when the Constitution was written, the majority of the American people were practicing Christians of some form or other.  Does Mandy seriously believe that the Founders thought that all those Christian would keep their principles to themselves either in who they voted for or the policies they espoused and supported?

But as a thought experiment, let’s try to imagine a Mandy Marcotte wet dream.  A United States in which religion started out and remained “off into the realm of private practice and out of the public square.”  What would such a country be like?

For a start, there’s a pretty decent chance that lots of people reading this who are over a certain age would have seen or know someone who was a slave.  By now, most of them would be old and cared for by their owners while the institution would be in the final stages of dying out because civilized people just don’t do that sort of thing anymore.

And hey, it’s not like we have to let black people vote or anything.

Sorry to hear about your sister coming down with diarrhea.  That’s what killed my mom, you know.  The doctor said that it shouldn’t be too much longer and that there’s nothing you can do for her other than to make her as comfortable as you can.  Sure would be nice if there was some kind of institution where they would work on curing diseases like that but I don’t guess that’ll ever happen.

I see where they caught the kid who stole your car.  He claimed he didn’t do it but I guess they all say that, don’t they?  Anyway, it doesn’t much matter now since they hung the guy right after his trial.  Sucked hearing him beg for his life like that and hearing his mom crying and all the rest of it.

I suppose that’s a lot better fate than that place where they sent that little kid from the neighborhood who shoplifted a candy bar.  But that’s what prison is for, I guess.  To punish people who commit crimes. 

It’d just be nice if they didn’t have to send poor Mrs. Wentworth, who went crazy, to places like that but I guess there’s nowhere else to put those people.  You obviously can’t keep ’em at home, for crying out loud.

They really ought to do something about all those blind and deaf beggars out on the streets.  You can’t walk two feet without one of them begging for some of your hard-earned money.  Be nice if there was something those people could do to keep them out of the way of normal people.

But I guess there’s nothing anybody can do about it.


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Monday, November 28th, 2011 | Uncategorized | 27 Comments

I think this about says it all:

When my wife gets a little upset, sometimes a simple “calm down” in a soothing voice is all it takes to get her a lot upset.


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Monday, November 28th, 2011 | Uncategorized | 16 Comments

Headquarters sends word that Mark Lawrence has won a round:

On November 22, the Disciplinary Board for Bishops met via conference call to consider whether, based on information previously submitted to the Board by lay communicants and a priest of the Diocese of South Carolina, the Bishop of that Diocese, the Right Rev’d Mark Lawrence, has abandoned the communion of The Episcopal Church.

Based on the information before it, the Board was unable to make the conclusions essential to a certification that Bishop Lawrence had abandoned the communion of the Church. I have today communicated the Board’s action to Bishop Lawrence by telephone, to be followed by an e-mail copy of this statement.

The abandonment canon (Title IV, Canon16) is quite specific, designating only three courses of action by which a Bishop is to be found to have abandoned the church: first, “by an open renunciation of the Doctrine, Discipline or Worship of the Church”; second, “by formal admission into any religious body not in communion with” the Church; and, third, “by exercising Episcopal acts in and for a religious body other than the Church or another church in communion with the Church, so as to extend to such body Holy Orders as the Church holds them, or to administer on behalf of such religious body Confirmation without the express consent and commission of the proper authority in the Church….” Applied strictly to the information under study, none of these three provisions was deemed applicable by a majority of the Board.

A basic question the Board faced was whether actions by conventions of the Diocese of South Carolina, though they seem—I repeat, seem—to be pointing toward abandonment of the Church and its discipline by the diocese, and even though supported by the Bishop, constitute abandonment by the Bishop. A majority of the members of the Board was unable to conclude that they do.

It is also significant that Bishop Lawrence has repeatedly stated that he does not intend to lead the diocese out of The Episcopal Church—that he only seeks a safe place within the Church to live the Christian faith as that diocese perceives it. I speak for myself only at this point, that I presently take the Bishop at his word, and hope that the safety he seeks for the apparent majority in his diocese within the larger Church will become the model for safety—a “safe place”—for those under his episcopal care who do not agree with the actions of South Carolina’s convention and/or his position on some of the issues of the Church.

The Right Rev’d Dorsey F. Henderson, Jr.
President, Disciplinary Board for Bishops


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Monday, November 28th, 2011 | Uncategorized | 16 Comments

A bottle of really good Scotch says that Jim Naughton doesn’t appreciate the irony of what he posted here:

Even if one assumes that some parishes will fare better when the economy improves, these numbers raise a difficult issue. Should Episcopal bishops be more aggressive about closing struggling churches?

So how does the church confront the fact that by any worldly calculus it has too many units, and this surplus appears to be driving up overhead and diminishing its capacity to spread the gospel, while at the same time working within the constraints of our intensely localized polity, and people’s abiding commitment to their small churches?

Should I remind Jim that spending millions and millions of scarce church funds to hold on to buildings that TEO is just going to have to turn around and sell, probably at a loss since it won’t be able to keep parishes going but it refuses to sell to traditionalist Anglicans, is just too unbelievably stupid on too many levels to name here?

Or is that so blindlingly obvious that not even a liberal Episcopalian could miss it?


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Monday, November 28th, 2011 | Uncategorized | 9 Comments

Apparently, President Obama intends to go full-racist next year:

For decades, Democrats have suffered continuous and increasingly severe losses among white voters. But preparations by Democratic operatives for the 2012 election make it clear for the first time that the party will explicitly abandon the white working class.

All pretense of trying to win a majority of the white working class has been effectively jettisoned in favor of cementing a center-left coalition made up, on the one hand, of voters who have gotten ahead on the basis of educational attainment — professors, artists, designers, editors, human resources managers, lawyers, librarians, social workers, teachers and therapists — and a second, substantial constituency of lower-income voters who are disproportionately African-American and Hispanic.

Librarians?  Really?  Granted, it’s generally a hard-left job (the American Library Association would love to wield the sort of influence in the Democratic Party that the National Education Association does, which is one of the reasons I’m no longer a member).  You can count conservative librarians on one hand; most librarians will vote Democratic anyway.

But by all means, Democrats.  Blow off people who work for a living in favor of appealing to large groups who basically live on the public dole.  I see two possibilities.  Obama will either be destroyed in a landslide of epic proportions.  Or, if he should somehow happen to pull out a win, the United States of America will literally become ungovernable.


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Saturday, November 26th, 2011 | Uncategorized | 39 Comments

A week ago, Katharine Jefferts Schori was in town to preach at the Diocese of Missouri’s convention Eucharist.  She opened with some observations on The Most Importantest Social Movement In The Whole History Of The Whole Wide World:

Well, the Occupy-ers have been thrown out of one park after another.  They were evicted from Zuccotti Park near Wall Street Monday night and from Kiener Plaza here in St. Louis last weekend. 

I’ve got a hundy that says that Mrs. Schori pronounced it KYE-ner Plaza rather than KEE-ner Plaza which is correct.  I’ve got another hundy that says that if she did, Missouri Episcopalians will pronounce it KYE-ner Plaza from now on and will correct you if you pronouce it the way it’s supposed to be pronounced.

Oakland tired of them quite a while ago, and London hasn’t been able to make up its mind about whether or not to let them stay at St. Paul’s.  Our city governments and even churches have been mightily conflicted about this movement.  I am profoundly struck, however, by the parallels between the Occupy movement and Jesus’ band of homeless wanderers.

I see her point.  After all, the early Church was known for taking over public forums in the Roman Empire and refusing to leave.  The first Christians were fond of keeping people awake at all hours by pounding on drums for no particular reason.

The first Church had a vague, inchoate, and diffuse set of goals and its members had a pronounced sense of personal entitlement.  And if your business went south because your customers didn’t want to wade through the sea of filthy, Christian humanity, it made the Church no never mind.

Then, of course, there was the well-documented public defecation and urination which the Christians left for other people to clean up.  So yeah, the parallel is an eerie one.

“Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’”  It seems to me that most of these bands of campers have done just that.  “Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid.  Do not move about from house to house.”  The Occupiers have shared food, cared for each other, and challenged the rest of us about justice in the size of paychecks.  Now those who have been evicted are struggling with how to continue their global demonstration.

Here’s a thought.  This may sound a little Tea Party-ish but the hippies could pay the requisite fees to reserve this or that public space, JUST LIKE EVERYBODY ELSE WHO HAS A POINT TO GET ACROSS DOES, make their point and go home.  If they felt it necessary, they could repeat the process for as long as it took.  Also, they could budget for Porta-Potties.

The group at Kiener Plaza has dwindled to a small fraction of its earlier strength.  One of the leaders said that without tents they no longer have access to food, medical supplies, 

Translation: they have to start actually buying stuff.

or the media.  Their witness has been subverted, and now Occupy is going to have to find another way to make its presence known and its message heard.

Oh sweet mother of…it’s called the Internet, Kate.  Pretty much anybody can start a web site to get one’s point across.  And Vague, Ambiguous, Infinitely-Malleable Deity Concept knows that the hippies will get hits since they have the added advantage of an American news media that still joyfully serves as the presidential milking machine if you know what I mean and I think you do.

We have the same challenge in the Church – both in presenting the good news we have to share, and in how best to do it.  Our old settled tradition of staying put in church and waiting for others to come to us doesn’t work so well with younger generations or the unchurched.  Our message remains the same as it always has, but we need new ways of telling it and showing an effective response to the hungry outside our doors.

Very nice segue.  While I’m obviously a partisan, I have to think that Presiding Bishop Frank wouldn’t have handled the transition anywhere near that well.

What does Jesus tell his band of wanderers?  He sends the 70 out two by two to every city where he plans to go himself.  He SENDS them OUT.  That’s where our word “mission” comes from.  When they arrive in the mission field, they’re supposed to find some place that’s interested in hearing what they have to say, and then stay long enough to build some community and have an effective conversation.  They’re supposed to start with good news of peace, and then share food, heal the sick, and tell about the coming reign of God.

Fair enough.  And it’s at this point that I’m going to strongly urge you to get yourselves something enjoyable to drink.  Could be bourbon, an exceptional coffee or tea, anything that you particularly enjoy.  Because you are about to witness pure and unadulterated greatness.  Don’t worry, I won’t resume until you get back.

Tall and tan and young and lovely, the girl from Ipanema goes walking.  And when she passes, each one she passes goes…

You’re back?  Good.  Great choice, Fuinseoig!  Normally, no one associates the Irish and drinking but Ireland can pull off an exceptional whiskey.

Anyway, settle in and relax as I present for your reading pleasure the Katharine Jefferts Schori Sociopathic Thought for the Day.

We are experiencing a slow-motion version of being occupiers ousted from their camps.  You’ve heard the familiar lament about buildings being albatrosses.  At this convention you’re dealing with the challenge of affording health insurance for everyone who works for pay in the church.  As long as we understand our primary mission as preserving buildings, maybe we ought to welcome being tossed out.  The shelters in which we gather to worship are meant to be aid stations, like those tents here in Kiener Plaza.  We come together here to be fed for service in the world, to share a meal and be healed and remember the great dream of God, and then go out into the city or the countryside and do the same for others.  And all across this Church we’re beginning to learn new ways of gathering and of serving.

You might want to take the field in order to take that down or argue with it but trust me.  Just let it go.  There’s no longer any point in bringing up all the money TEO has spent to steal preserve buildings which will either house Christian churches with no connection to the “Anglican tradition” or no Christian churches at all.


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Saturday, November 26th, 2011 | Uncategorized | 32 Comments

Big Narcissism has a Christmas message for this nation’s poor and needy.  Drop dead:

The Salvation Army’s Red Kettle bell ringers have become a truly iconic part of the holiday shopping season. However, many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights advocates are now calling for shoppers to skip the donation buckets due to the organization’s conservative view of homosexuality.

“The Salvation Army has a history of active discrimination against gays and lesbians. While you might think you’re helping the hungry and homeless by dropping a few dollars in the bright red buckets, not everyone can share in the donations,” Bil Browning notes on The Bilerico Project. “The organization also has a record of actively lobbying governments worldwide for anti-gay policies — including an attempt to make consensual gay sex illegal.”

Indeed, as Browning points out, the group’s position statements reveal a somewhat rigid outlook on LGBT lifestyles. “Scripture forbids sexual intimacy between members of the same sex,” one statement reads. “The Salvation Army believes, therefore, that Christians whose sexual orientation is primarily or exclusively same-sex are called upon to embrace celibacy as a way of life. There is no scriptural support for same-sex unions as equal to, or as an alternative to, heterosexual marriage.”

Note to self: on the way home from work this evening, pull some cash out of the checking account.  There’s a certain red kettle that’s going to receive an extra-large contribution.  Also, I just started one of these.  So if you’d like to donate online to the Salvation Army, click on that link, the one at the shield or the one in the links list.


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Saturday, November 26th, 2011 | Uncategorized | 40 Comments

Rod Dreher directs the Editorial attention to this Joe Carter posting at First Things.  Carter notes a study by Notre Dame economist Daniel Hungerman (available here) of the effect of the sexual abuse scandals on the Roman Catholic Church.  Remember that smack run by the Episcopal left about how all those disaffected Catholics would flood into Episcopal churches? Ain’t happening:

This paper considers substituting one charitable activity for another in the context of religious practice. I examine the impact of the Catholic Church sex-abuse scandal on both Catholic and non-Catholic religiosity. I find that the scandal led to a 2-million-member fall in the Catholic population that was compensated by an increase in non-Catholic participation and by an increase in non-affiliation. Back-of the- envelope calculations suggest the scandal generated over 3 billion dollars in donations to non-Catholic faiths. Those substituting out of Catholicism frequently chose highly dissimilar alternatives; for example, Baptist churches gained significantly from the scandal while the Episcopal Church did not. These results challenge several theories of religious participation and suggest that regulatory policies or other shocks specific to one religious group could have important spillover effects on other religious groups.

More ex-Roman Catholics becoming Baptists than becoming Episcopalians?  I guess it might be tempting for some Catholics to write these particular converts off as poorly-catechized and leave it at that.  But I think that this situation is or can be a whole lot more complicated than a bunch of people who don’t know their faith well enough.

Quite the opposite.

Full disclosure: I guess it’s no secret that I incline toward the Baptist side of things.  Billy Graham taught me the Christian faith (which took him less than an hour as opposed to the years I spent in Episcopal Sunday schools wherein I learned nothing).  I was baptized an Anglican because that’s the church my mother attended when I was born.

Fuller disclosure: I’ve always found high-church Anglican liturgy to be a distraction.  The liturgies at my old place which spiritually benefited me the most were the low-church ones.  The Word of the living God with a minimum of ceremony.

Sir, I would see Jesus, to paraphrase the Gospel of John.

But that’s just me.  No one is as honest as they think they are so I’ll never question the motives or the spiritual formation of anyone who is called to swim the Tiber.  And those who have made that swim or are currently making it would be wise to refrain from judging anyone swimming in the opposite direction, away from those seven hills.

Because as I said before, these situations are complicated.  Commenting at First Things, Terry Mattingly asks:

On your second point: Is it safe to say that the post-Vatican II Church is functionally Universalist? Might that play a role? This would apply to most Mainline Prots as well. Yes, also far too many Orthodox parishes.

To which Sherry Weddell, who, Dreher observes, “was a Baptist who became a Catholic, and founded the St. Catherine of Siena Institute to help lay Catholics understand their faith and to create discipleship programs in their parishes,” responds:

I’d estimate that 95 – 98% of all the Catholics – including pastoral leaders – that I’ve ever worked with are functional universalists. Meaning that concerns regarding the personal salvation of anyone never cross their mind or affect their pastoral decisions and priorities. Roughly the same number are de facto Pelagians.

A Roman Catholic who becomes a Southern Baptist may be poorly catechized.  Or he may be catechized well enough to know that if there’s no difference between the message he receives in his Catholic parish and the one proclaimed in the Episcopal church down the street, he’s wasting his time.

But the sacraments, Chris!  What about valid sacraments?!  What about them?  The sacraments benefit you because you know why you go to church on Sundays.  But what about your children?

Of what good are the sacraments to them if they’re being taught the Christian faith by functional universalists?  If you have no other options, would it not be better for both you and your kids to get into a church situation where at least you know that the foundation will be gotten right and your kids can make their own decisions later on?

Because if the foundation is bad, the house doesn’t stand a chance.


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011 | Uncategorized | 15 Comments

It’s no secret that mainline churches have been in free-fall for decades now and the Presbyterian Church (USA) is no exception.  A PC(USA) pastor named Carol Howard Merritt admits what just about everyone else figured out a long time ago:

In my denomination (PCUSA), 90% of our members are white and most of them are over the age of 60. Many of our churches are rural and many of the buildings were constructed in the 1950s. After 60 years of dutiful service, the structures are too large, too inefficient, and require too much maintenance for smaller, aging members to keep up with. We’re ministering in a country where younger generations are much more diverse and many of them move into urban areas. Many congregations plan to cut staff (including the pastor) and hold on to the building until there’s only one person left standing. In fact, right now, half of our churches cannot afford pastors, so it’s not difficult to imagine that we might be closing them in the next 20 years. 

What should PC(USA) do to reverse this alarming trend?  Here’s a thought.  How about planting new Presbyterian churches in places where people actually live?

Using money from a large congregation and denominational funding, a church is planted. That seems to be what happens the most in our denomination, and it seems to be our trustiest default. The problem? It’s usually conservative, evangelical big-steeples who are in the planting business. If a church-planter does not fit that theological mold, she’s out of luck.

I think you see the problem here.  “Conservative, evangelical big-steeples” seem to have the most seed money in PC(USA) and are the ones “in the planting business.”  How is a progressive Christian congregation supposed to make a go of it?

Want to take a guess why those “conservative, evangelical big-steeples” have all that money, Carol?  Or why leftist parishes aren’t considered good spiritual investments?  Anything occur to you?  Take your time.

Ms. Merritt goes on to brainstorm nine more ideas, one of which has potential(#10) and all of which strenuously avoid dealing with what’s actually destroying the mainline. 

Since it’s just not a challenge when they tee them up for me like this and since I want to be constructive for a change, I have a few suggestions of my own for revitalizing the Presbyterian Church(USA).

(1) Regular John Calvin bobblehead giveaway days.
(2) “Institutes of the Christian Religion – The Musical!”
(3) Every Halloween evening, set off fire crackers that look like Servetus.
(4) Angry Genevan Birds downloadable app.  Shoot Calvinist birds out of a slingshot to destroy day-glo green Unitarian pigs.
(5) Publish humorous Great Presbyterian Pick-up Lines book.  Examples:
       (A) “Baby, you and I were predestined.
       (B) “TULIP is impossible without U.”
       (C) “Want to come back to my place and see my Larger Catechism?”

You’re welcome.


Posted by Christopher Johnson | Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011 | Uncategorized | 16 Comments

If you’re looking for an idea to give your Thanksgiving dinner that extra-special something, whip up one of these.

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